December 22, 2019 / 2:46 AM / a month ago

Macron calls for Christmas truce in French pension strikes

France's President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a meeting with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara at the Petit Palais in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, December 21, 2019. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron called on transport unions to suspend strikes over pension reform during the Christmas holidays to avoid travel disruption.

“Strike action is justifiable and protected by the constitution, but I think there are moments in a nation’s life when it is good to observe a truce out of respect for families and family life,” Macron said during a news conference with Ivorian counterpart Alassane Ouattara.

Two weeks of nationwide industrial action against Macron’s planned overhaul of the pension system, including the scrapping of special regimes for sectors like the railways, have crippled train services.

Despite calls by some unions to suspend strikes during the festive season, several rail worker groups are continuing stoppages as travellers head off on holiday.

Macron said a strike pause would not mean unions had abandoned their demands, but would show “the sense of responsibility and the respect owed to French people who are sometimes apart and wish to be reunited during this festive period.”

National rail operator SNCF continued to run reduced services on Saturday, including half the usual number of its high-speed TGV trains, while half of metro lines in Paris were closed.

Reporting by Ange Aboa and Clotaire Achi in Abidjan and Sophie Louet in Paris; Writing by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Leslie Adler

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